Fallout: New Vegas – Honest Hearts
There wouldn’t be that much danger he said. There’d be some caps in it for you he said. You’d be back in the Mojave before you know it he said! Curse the day you met Jed Masterson, curse that son of a b… oh wait, he’s dead. And it wasn’t even you who put him down. This trip is just full disappointments (more than you’ll ever know).
It all started a few weeks back. You pick up Jed Masterson’s signal, inviting anyone with a Pip-Boy to meet up at the Happy Trails Caravan’s location. Upon arrival, the post-apocalyptic Barry White advises that the company has fallen on hard times. In order to catch Lady Luck’s attention, the crew needs to make a prodigal expedition to Utah, into Zion National Park. Happy Trails hopes to meet up with the New Canaanites to do some trade. Thing is, all contact with the religious sect had been lost for quite some time, and bands of savage tribals have taken up residence in Zion. Then there’s The Burned Man, you know, the former right hand man of Caesar, who screwed up the Legion’s invasion of Hoover Dam resulting in his banishment, but not before his crazy ass was set on fire and tossed into the Grand Canyon; he’s there too. But Jed assures you, things will work out somehow.
After parting with your companions and packing enough to meet the caravan’s luggage limit, you head north. As soon as you and your new buddies take one step into Zion National Park, the White Legs, one of the three Zion tribes, ambushes your party and kills everyone. Of course, you’re the only one who survives, and are stuck in the middle of the ongoing war that has ravaged the wilderness. Until you can somehow resolve the conflict, the way back home is denied. Crap.
It’s at this very spot you realize that it isn’t just your situation, but also the story that is amiss. You are immediately welcomed by one of the three DLC’s companions, a member of The Burned Man’s tribe, the Dead Horses. Savages aren’t exactly an appealing bunch, even if they have your best interests in mind. Originally, when you met Jed Masterson, you also met two individuals: Stella, a tough as nails ex-sheriff, and Ricky, a callow, insecure junky. You actually get to chop it up with the two, both unique in their own right, so you figure they’re destined to be your companions. But, their scripted deaths go to show that you’ve been tricked. In return, two of the three companions end up being savages – both being so one dimensional, and useless in their perks, it’s really hard to care about them. Given the DLC’s theme of survival through faith, Stella and Ricky, despite not being dressed like the cool kids, would’ve been perfectly suited to bring out the story.
The next big fluke was Joshua Graham, The Burned Man himself. It’s not surprising if the build-up of his urban legends has invoked much anticipation; the big question being whether or not you have to take him on. The good news is he’s meant to be your third companion. The bad news, it’s when it’s too little too late. Until then, he’s reduced to nothing more than a merchant, a repairman, a storyteller, a classic case of a man who doesn’t live up to the myth. With Obsidian’s writers failing to breathe life into the companions and Joshua, players will find themselves disconnected, and to have this happen at the very beginning is nothing short of calamitous.
Unfortunately, this detachment is perpetual. You learn that the three warring tribes have their own agendas: the White Legs wish to take Zion in order to pay tribute to Caesar, hoping that the carnage left in their wake would be the selling point on their resume when applying for Legion employment. Already, they’ve destroyed the New Canaanites’ base, which explains the aforementioned loss in communication. Joshua’s Dead Horses are preparing to engage in one final battle with the White Legs, hoping to eradicate the dark tribe from the park. Then you have the Sorrows, led by Joshua’s old friend, Daniel. The New Canaanite opts to have the good tribes escape the park and avoid combat. That’s dandy and all, problem is, between the Dead Horses and the Sorrows, there’s only 4-5 people you can have a meaningful conversation with, which doesn’t generate a whole lot of sympathy to their cause. So by the time you have to choose to either stand and fight, or evacuate, you might as well flip a coin.
Honest Hearts definitely serves as Dead Money’s polar opposite. While the latter went with a darker, claustrophic approach, this DLC is a mini sandbox game in itself. Zion is a regal scene with starry nights, the occasional rain shower and exhibits the best that nature has to offer. The numerous sidequests will have you touring the furthest corners of the park, but appreciating its majesty is challenged by the trend of fetch quests. Furthermore, the DLC crashes on a frequency that’s almost equal to that of the parent game. Thus, apathy prolongs.
Now I’m not sure if it’s because I was already at level 35, or the fact that I was allowed to take some of my best equipment with me, but Honest Hearts seemed devoid of challenge: not once did I die. The White Legs can barely put up much of a fight, and the return of Fallout 3’s Yao Guai did nothing to spice things up. Compared to Dead Money, Honest Hearts is just full of conveniences, such as being able to fast travel, and the addition of useful new perks that improves your battle efficiency. The DLC’s new arsenal is completely useless, save for the .45 weapons which are average at best. If you packed a hardy supply of .308 rounds and weaponry, that’s pretty much all you need.
Eventually, the journey comes to an end on an awkward note. Much of the epilogue is narrated by Jed Masterson, which is weird considering that he died a grisly death at the beginning of the game. Given the title’s shallow cast, hearing about what they did in the aftermath is no different from listening to what a stranger does after shopping at Walmart. As for your reward, it’s like winning the spoils of a dying film studio’s prop department. Meh.
Honest Hearts was promised as a long awaited harvest, but is rather, a shrub grown from the soils of poor choices. Those who enjoy exploring may find this as a new way to sate their wanderlust, but that’s all it accounts for. Those who’ve just purchased New Vegas, and the available DLCs, should consider playing this one first for its ease in level building and the opportunity to stock up on supplies for better tackling the Mojave’s early segments. Beyond that, Zion National Park symbolizes a vestige of letdowns and not even its beautiful sights are enough to hide the shame.